Office occupiers review their space requirements post Covid-19

Ashley Hancox, CBRE’s head of office advisory and transaction services for the UK regions

A survey of 250 commercial property occupiers conducted by property consultants CBRE revealed that 40% are reviewing their locational footprint in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.

Ashley Hancox, CBRE’s Birmingham-based head of office and transaction services for the UK regions, believes Birmingham could be among the locations set to benefit.

He said: “North-shoring was starting to gain momentum prior to the pandemic but we are now likely to see this trend hastening. We are already seeing early signs that larger occupiers are looking to downsize HQs and establish regional hubs.

“Where mobile occupiers are reviewing the factors that determine location and building selection Birmingham certainly has a lot to offer, including excellent transport network, connectivity and good quality of life.”

The survey also revealed that 24% of respondents plan to increase their use of coworking or serviced office space.

“This is interesting as prior to the pandemic the flexible office sector was beginning to show signs of stress. However, the health crisis has highlighted that flex space is an ideal halfway house for businesses looking for start-up or supplementary space. Right now, many occupiers may also be struggling to find spare cash for capital expenditure.

“There’s also an obvious opportunity for landlords to develop their own ‘plug and play’ facilities.”

In good news for landlords, more than half the survey respondents said they planned to increase or at least maintain the density of their office space. Furthermore, 21% said they are prepared to pay premium rentals of more than 20% for tech-enabled smart buildings.

Ashley said: “It’s clear that going forward landlords will need to invest in touch-free technologies and other smart building tools to reduce the risk of virus transmission and to win occupier confidence. If they can claw back some of this investment through higher rents then that’s encouraging.

“Truly digital buildings, with connected hardware and software systems, help to drive operational efficiencies, reduce costs, improve the employee experience and enhance productivity. The value of integrated technology, therefore, extends far beyond the immediate health crisis.”